betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Gaslighting; Knowing the Signs, and How to Stop It

If you have been cheated on and haven’t heard the terms “gaslighting” or “crazy-making” you are probably still very confused about some of your addict’s behaviors.  In 1938 there was a stage play, and later, a movie called “Gaslight.  The premise of both was a husband who systematically convinced his wife that she was insane by destabilizing her by de-legitimizing her memories and beliefs.  He rearranged furniture, reinvented conversations, and turned down the gas lights. When she would question what was happening around her he would deny all of it in the attempt to make her believe she was losing her mind.  Addicts, narcissist, and sociopaths all behave in the same way.  This is why the term is now to describe the behavior of addicts, manipulation, and other psychotic disorders.  Gaslighting is a real thing and it maybe happening in your relationship, especially if your husband has been found cheating on you. Chances are that you already know it has happened to you or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.

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What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a powerful manipulation tactic used by one person in a relationship to  control the other person by making them question their reality or truth.  You might say that you would never fall for anything so sinister, and that is easy to say, however, gaslighting happens so subtlely and slowly that the damage is often already complete long before you are ever aware that you have been manipulated.

Gaslighting is a common practice for politicians, religious and business leaders, bullies, and even the media.  We can almost tolerate it in these people, we can even roll our eyes at it, but when it comes from our significant other, that is a whole other story! Gaslighting is used by the powerful against the weak to lower their self-esteem and independence, to keep them in their place, and from fighting back.  If the gaslighter is successful, their victim will be left powerless, confused, and unable to defend herself. You will truly feel that you have lost your mind! The whole point of gaslighting is to keep you from learning the truth about your husbands addiction and betrayal.

In a relationship where one spouse is cheating on the other one, gaslighting is just one of many methods employed by the cheater to cover his tracks. Gaslighting can happen in the relationship for years without detection, before, during, and after the cheating has been discovered.

How Do You Know If You Have Been Gaslighted?

There are 10 manipulation techniques used in gaslighting to successfully make you think that you are the one who is crazy so that he can continue to cheat on you without your knowledge, keep you in the dark once the affair(s) has been discovered, and continue to abuse you going forward:

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The Lies That Come in Every Shape, Color, and Size

Everyone experiences little white lies.  You know, the kind where you tell someone they don’t look bad in a dress when they really do, just to spare their feelings. That is not what I am talking about here.  Gaslighters intentionally lie and they do it without guilt or remorse.  They are able to lie to you straight to your face when they KNOW what they are saying is a bold-faced lie and that you do not believe it. These lies are designed to set a precedent for future lying.  It reminded me a lot of how Satan lies, a little truth mixed with a lie, just enough to make it believable.  A gaslighter will throw in just enough truth to make it plausible, but everyone in the room knows it’s a lie; you know it, he knows it, and he knows you know it.  Once this happens its a game changer.  From this point on you are not sure if anything else he says to you is the truth.  The purpose of this lie is to keep you off-balance, from now on, you will question everything, wonder why it’s happening, and not trust yourself, or him. Its a terrible feeling to not trust the one person who you should trust the most!

My ex-husband diabolically told me he was cheating again, just days after I had realized that I had actually begun to trust him again after his “first” affair. It took me 5 years to trust him again, and then one day he says to me, out of the clear blue sky, “You think I am cheating on you again, don’t you? You will NEVER trust me again, ever! I am tired of having to live this way, always wondering if you will ever trust me again!” I had said nothing for him to bring this up! I was immediately put between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand I was forced to defend my honor by telling him that I did truly trust him, on the other hand he was daring me to ask him if he was cheating again so he could berate me.  I didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing.  And from this point on I was put on edge.  Later, I was to find out that he was, in fact, having another affair, and he had been doing so for at least a year! The lie was that he was calling me out as the one who had trust issues and he was daring me to confront him. The truth was that he WAS cheating again! Rather than just being honest and confessing, he decided he would call my loyalty to him into question! This is so wrong on so many levels!

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Everyone Else is the Liar

Anyone who disagrees with the gaslighter is an automatic liar.  Nobody is telling the truth…ever. And once a person has been deemed a liar anything that comes out of their mouth from then on out is a lie. This tactic is employed to isolate you from knowing the truth.  If he can convince you that everyone else is lying then you will rely on him to be the sole source of all truth. This effectively works to keep you from seeking help from people who are in a position to really help you. All of a sudden your family is a lying to you, or out to get him, or manipulating you.  You can’t believe what your Bishop is telling you, how could you listen to your therapist, your best friend has always hated him, how can you possibly believe all these liars in your life? Over time, the victim with start to believe the lies and this is dangerous for everyone, especially to herself.  It’s best to get away while you still have your wits about you. More about that later.

Once he convinces you to dismiss all the liars in your life it leaves the gaslighter with complete control over you.  Don’t fall for it! I had this happen to me so often it is difficult to come up with just one example, but this one stand out:

I had made an appointment for us to go to LifeStar.  He had agreed to go with me to get help to save our marriage.  Once we were there, he said he never agreed to go and then he did everything to discredit everyone in the clinic.  The therapists where crazy, the program wasn’t good enough, no excuse was too far-fetched make them, or me, seem crazy for making him go there.  He even convinced the therapists and members of his group that he did not have an addiction, or so he thought. The bottom line was that we were all liars and we were all ganging up on him and accusing him of being an addict when he really wasn’t one.  We were all the evil meanies! He was innocent and nobody believed him.

The only way to protect yourself from the lying is to keep good records of everything.  Don’t keep records to prove to him that he is a liar, keep the records to prove to yourself that he is a liar. He won’t believe the proof anyway.

Denial is Not a River in Egypt!

You probably have noticed that addicts are equally adept at denial as they are at lying. They will say or do something, and then turn around and flat-out deny that they ever said or did something.  And you are not immune from this bait and switch contortion.  They will also deny that you ever said or did something that you darn well know you said or did! Even when faced with concrete evidence they will find one fault or chink in the armor to discredit the whole thing.

What was the most frustrating thing for me is the denial my ex-husband had for my own motives.  I told him at every step along the way of a painful, 4-year process, that if he would get himself into recovery, come up with a plan to provide me with safety so I could trust he would not cheat on me again, and if he would get into a 12-steps program with a sponsor, and meet with his Bishop every week, that I would move back in with him.  I also told him after I filed for a divorce that if he would do these things I would be willing to stop the divorce and work on putting our marriage back together.  The last time I told him this was the day before the divorce papers were sent to the judge. I even told him after the divorce was final that if he would get his act together and do these things I would re-marry him. But he denies ALL of it!  According to him, I NEVER said those things!  Even in the presence of emails and texts to the contrary, I never said any such thing, according to him. He even went so far as to tell me that if I had said that to him that he would have done what I asked.  (Projecting all the fault and blame for it back on to me.) I even spent 9 months of his first year of marriage to his wifestress trying to convince him that I did, in fact, tell him those things!  It was a humiliation that I will not forget anytime soon.  In the end, nothing will convince him, short of being struck down by God, that I ever said I wanted him to come back.

The problem with all the denial is that as it progresses your brain is already hardwired to recognize and record patterns of behavior.  Over time, you will start to question if you are the one at fault because it has now becoming a pattern.  You will start to tell yoursef that maybe you misunderstood, forgot, mis-heard, or are just losing it. The irony is that the lies that you knew were so wrong, begin replace your own reality through the persistent and relentless denial. Couple this with what happens in the brain when betrayal trauma is present and you have the perfect storm for being caught in this manipulation with NO WAY to escape on your own.  The more I read about the gaslighting and narcissistic abuse, present in porn and sex addiction, the more I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to come out of it alive. I was truly watched over and protected in spite of my own denial from believing he could be capable of doing this to me.

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Their Walk and Their Talk Don’t Match

When your partner is an addict their walk and talk will never match.  They will say one thing and do something completely different.  As a result you will always question their motives and behavior. It keeps you off-balance and wondering what is really true. Once you are in this maze of deceit there is no why out. The more you try to make sense of it, the harder you try, the deeper into the maze you go, and the more lost you become.  They will keep telling you they want you back, and they love you, or will do anything to put your family back together, but until those words are backed up with matching actions, it is always a deadend. Always!

My ex-husband professed undying love to me so many times I lost count.  And each time I would fall for the lies only to be broadsided by another affair partner telling me that my husband was cheating on me.  This happened to me 6 times until a therapist gave me a lifeline, that I will pass on to you:

“Men have two tongues, the one in their mouth and the one on their shoes.  Ignore the one in their mouth and just watch the one on their shoes.”

In other words, don’t listen to a thing he says, only watch what he actually does! If he is serious about recovery he will do the hard work of recovery.  If he loves you he will provide you with safety, if  he really loves you he will stop cheating on you, he will stop lying to you, and he will stop gaslighting you. It really is just that simple!  This simplicity is what finally led me to file for a divorce – his talk did not match his walk. The bottom line is this, I could not make him give me what I needed and I had a responsibility to stop betraying myself, even it he wouldn’t stop betraying me.

Protect yourself from the inconsistencies by having clear, concise, and immoveable boundaries. Figure out what you need from him to make this better and ask for it.  The scary thing about boundaries is that you have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences.  So be clear about what you want and how to ask for it.  You will find out really fast if he truly loves you enough to give you what you need or if he is just hoping you will fall for his lip service.

They Attack You Personally

When a gasligher doesn’t get what he wants, when he is losing his grip on you, he will attack anything and everything that makes you…well… you.  He will attack your very identity.  He makes fun of your family, your personality, your goals, your talents, your parenting style, or anything else that is at your core being, that gives your life meaning and purpose. Little by little he will break you down by discounting anything that gives you a sense of  belonging and worth.

This is to insure that you become more and more unsure of yourself as a human being and look only to him for your self-esteem.  You are left without dignity, confidence, or even self-preservation. My ex-husband was a master at this.  He talked down to me in the most condescending and sarcastic tones, and encouraged other family members to talk to me this way as well.  He made fun of my gifts and talents to my face, while praising them in public, which was even more confusing.  I was told I was too sensitive or too passionate.  He put me down for my accomplishments and was jealous of my successes. If I ever called him out on it, his response was to tell me he was just joking and he ridiculed me for not being able to take a joke.  It was insidious.  I lived with this one for most of my marriage and he had me convinced that everyone talked to their spouse like this.  No they don’t!  It was abusive, and I endured it far too long!

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They Are Energy Vampires

Gaslighters will suck the very energy right out of you, like dementors from Harry Potter. They suck your energy through their lies, denial, manipulations, and degrading remarks. Gaslighters give you a one way ticket on the drama train. You can never relax with them because you have to constantly be on your toes, for what will surely be, their next attack.  You may find yourself in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. This consistent state of high alert is draining on your mind and body.  It causes you to have adrenaline and cortisol overload and will eventually deplete you of all of your energy resources.  This constant state of overload will eventually cause you to develop depression, anxiety,  panic attacks, or worse. I developed adrenal fatigue because I endured this treatment for nearly 4 years straight.  I am only beginning to recover from it now.  This state of high alert is also one cause of betrayal trauma and PTSD in victims of infidelity.  It is the biggest reason to seek professional help. And if what I have already told you is not enough reasons, this should convince you.

Once you are in this state of mind it is super easy to be brainwashed by your gaslighter. You are just too tired and too drained to fight it anymore. He now has the upper hand on you and the relationship. You are tired and drained to the point that anything he does or says will set you off.  You will lash out and he will use this against you as living proof for himself, and you, that you are the crazy one! After all you are the one who is exploding every time he talks to you! At this point you will have finally been broken and beat down to the degree that you question everything in your life. It is at this point that suicidal thoughts start making sense to you.

The only way to get yourself back is to seek professional help.  Do it now!  Don’t wait!  Trust me, you will not be able to navigate the riptide of addiction, narcissistic abuse, and gaslighting without professional help from someone who if familiar with these specific issues. Please take this seriously, it is a very serious matter.  It is the life and death kind of serious. Like a real riptide, it will pull you under and drown the life right out of you.

“I am Not the Villain”

One of the hallmarks for gaslighters is they are very skilled at convincing you that they are not the Villain. Everyone and everything else around them is to blame. Blame is just something they refuse to take – for any of it!  Their excuses are full of “ifs” and “maybes.” It was the bosses fault or their calling at church was too stressful. They are too overwhelmed with life. Something bad happened in their childhood that turned them into a cheater.  And while some of this maybe true, nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to cheat on you! If they had problems they could have talked it over with you, or gone to see a therapist, or talked to their Bishop, or a friend.  There are any number of possibilities that could have happened before they crossed the line into the arms of another woman. The bottom line is they CHOSE to cheat!  And in the case of my ex-husband, he made that choice dozens of times. Once can be counted as a mistake, anything after that is a choice.  Making the choice to cheat, makes him the villain, by anyone’s standards!

The best thing you can do when he plays the “I am not the Villain in this picture” card is to be clear about what is right, and what is wrong.  Have a few statements that you know are true and just repeat them, to yourself, and him, over and over.  Don’t argue with him, it is pointless.  But be clear in your own mind about the truth and the facts. Again, keep good records.  Keep a journal (It is admissible in court too).

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“You are the One Who is Confused, Not Me”

For gaslighters confusion is the magic bullet. By keeping you in a state of confusion they will leave your reality pelted full of holes. They are stunningly gifted at convincing you that the grass is blue and the sky is green.  Everything you say, do, or remember will be called into question as being false.  Their ability to rewrite history is quite remarkable.  You might be impressed if it didn’t call everything you know into question and make you feel insane!  You didn’t say it, he didn’t say it, it didn’t happen the way you remember it, or even happen at all.  You poor pitiful thing, you are just confused.  Again, this is a tactic to keep you off-balance so that you will question everything, including yourself.  After you endure this kind of treatment over weeks, months, or even years, you will start to doubt your own mind and will stop trusting your own intuition and instincts.  Your reality gets altered to the point that you honestly believe that you must be the one who is confused.

“This is Your Problem, Not Mine”

Ah, projecting. Projecting is something that gaslighters are experts on. It’s all your fault.  You are the one with the problem, not them.  Each time you need to discuss their cheating they quickly turn it around so that suddenly you are discussing your faults, shortcomings, and flaws, not his cheating. You will be so busy defending yourself that you will have forgotten what the original discussion was ever about. You will be caught up in so much drama that you will be too exhausted to investigate what he is really doing. You may even be accused of cheating yourself! Projection is easy to spot.  He will tell you something that is so absurd that you are appalled that he even said it.  This is your cue to look at all his ridiculousness for what it really is, a confession of his own misdeeds.

This happened to me shortly after I separated from my ex-husband.  He outlandishly accused me of cheating on him!  As if! I had so many things projected on to me that it would make your head spin, so I will spare you all the ways and means he projected onto me.  Let’s just say that my ex-husband will tell anyone and everyone who will listen to him that our being divorced was my doing.  He wanted our marriage to work, but our being divorced was my fault, I filed the papers so I must have wanted to divorce him all along.  He wanted our marriage to work!  It took me two years to untangle this one with my therapist.  To this day I still have doubts that filing for a divorce was my only choice!  I only filed after I attempted suicide from all antics mention above, and elsewhere in this blog.  But even saving my life wasn’t a good enough reason to file for a divorce in his mind. Nevermind that he had cheated on me with dozens of women! (31 to be exact, that I know of! That number is all in my head too, even though I have proof of every single one of them!) I am the one who gave up on our marriage and him…whatever helps him sleep at night.

Do you see why you need a therapist?  Some of this stuff is so mindnumbingly ridiculous that you will need an expert to sort it all out.  This is truly crazy-making at it’s finest! Trust me, it will cause you to feel every bit as crazy as it sounds!

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Trading Places; The Victim Becomes the Villain

The poor picked on little cheater! He is just a misunderstood addict that is being mistreated by his horrible shrew of a wife! This is a story, or some version of it, he will tell to anyone who will listen.  The stuff he told his whores about me would singe your eyebrows!  He was the one who was mistreated and victimized by a cruel and uncaring wife.  Bah! I don’t buy what he is selling for one second and neither do the people who know the truth. He had an ideal life and he threw it all away for a fantasy.

This was, and still is, a hard one for me to swallow.  I had been the one cheated on, but suddenly I am the perpetrator in this story he made up in his head, because his version certainly doesn’t exist in reality.  As crazy as it seems, you will learn that the addict is very capable of making themselves out to be the victim.  I saw it over and over in my own relationship with my ex-husband.  I see it play out in the lives of hundreds of other women who have also been cheated on. What is even harder to swallow is how easily he could convince others he was the one who had been wronged.  Most of his family and a far too large number of our friends, his whores, and current wifestress, believed, somehow, that this was all my fault.  It is galling! It is screwing with your mind at its finest! If you are in the middle of this, then you know exactly what I am talking about. It is horrifying in its own right to be cheated on, but then to have him turn around and blame it all on you is more than any wife should ever have to bear. What this boils down to is that the addict is not capable of taking any responsibility for their actions. So you are the bad guy in their eyes and have wrong them.  It’s the only thing they can tell themselves in order to live with what they have done to so many people they should have protected.

Unfortunently, there is nothing you can do about his making you look bad to his friends and family that won’t make you look as crazy as you feel.  All you can do is to live your life with dignity and integrity while you wait for the karma bus to broadside everyone he has bamboozled. My only solace is to know God knows everything that really happened.  Eventually, the truth will come out, it always does, even if it takes until judgment day.

What Do You Do About It?

So what is the point of gaslighting?  Why do men do such a mean and insidious thing to their wives that they supposedly love?  It is simple: to protect the lie of their betrayal.  An addict will go to great lengths to protect themselves from the truth – they are addicted to sex and porn.  This truth is so disturbing to them that they will even willingly destroy the one thing they loved the most, their wife, children, and family, to protect themselves from seeing what they have really become.  Given the choices, to gaslight or get help for their problem, gaslighting has somehow become the more preferrable option in their mind.  And this, ladies, is at the heart of the evil that is pornography and sex addiction.

If you are unable to get him to come clean with the truth, then it is time to consider some serious options.  Separation is a must!  If you are not safe, and you are NOT safe if you are being gaslighted, you need to separate yourself from this form of abuse until he is ready to face the truth. Your relationship is over at this point anyway if he cannot be truthful with you.  Period. Go to stay with a friend or family member for a while until you can sort out what is happening and get your head clear.

You should get yourself into therapy with someone who is acquainted with betrayal trauma.  You will need a therapist to help you navigate this intense form of manipulation and abuse. See a therapist at least a few months before having any contact with your spouse.  Go no contact during this time.  I did not do this and I was further damaged because of it.  I honestly thought I could talk some sense into him. You can’t.  All that will happen is that you will be further traumatized. Your number one priority at this point is you.  YOU are ALL you can change. YOU are ALL you can save.  He has to do his own saving.  So give up any ideas that you will be able to save him! You can’t! You need time and space to figure out what is happening and how you will respond to this crazy-making. You can’t do that with him around.

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You should also tell people you trust what is happening to you so that you will have support and someone who can give you reality checks.  You will need them.  One thing that was hardest for me then, and even now, was that I could not wrap my brain around the idea that this man I had loved for so many years could treat me like this.  He was in a position of trust and he abused it to the point of trying to drive me mad rather than tell me the truth. You need people around you to validate that it really is a bad as it seems and that this is really happening to you.  I just couldn’t believe this was happening until other people started telling me that it was as bad as I thought it was.

This issue of sex addiction is loaded with shame.  He has already done a great job of shaming you if you are being gaslighted.  But you need to get past the shame and tell your story to the people who have earned your trust.  The more you bring this into the light and out of the darkness the better off you will be. Addiction thrives in secrecy. Refuse to keep his secrets.  He lost the right to anonymity and your protection when he cheated on you.  Why would you continue to protect someone who is doing you so much harm? Tell you story as often as you can.  It will lose its power over you and give you some control back over your own life.  Plus one thing gaslighters like to do is to publicly humiliate you and discredit you.  They can’t do that if you get out in front of the narrative first.

Get educated.  Read up on pornography and sex addiction.  You need to know what you are dealing with, and chances are that you have no idea what has happened to him, or you.  Start reading everything you can get your hands on.  The resource on this blog are a great place to start! This issue is very complicated and there is so much that you will not know or understand.  You do not know what you do not know at this point. Knowledge is power so arm yourself with the truth so you are better equipped to deal with the crap storm you find yourself in.  Nothing in your life experiences will have prepared you for what is ahead and the learning curve will be steep, but the sooner you get started, the better off you will be.

Join a support group, in person or online.  You will be amazed at how much your story is just like everyone else’s story!  I was shocked that my ex-husband was not even original in his behaviors. Cheaters are NOT creative. It is like there is some sort of  Guide for Cheaters 101 that we don’t know about. They all do and say the same shitty crap to their wives that my ex-husband said and did to me.  That is how it is so easy to know he really hasn’t changed at all!  He is still doing the same dumb shit he did 4 years ago! It’s not hard to spot the lies, deceit, and denial when you know it’s what everyone who has ever cheated has done, and is doing, to their wives as well. I belong to 3 support groups on Facebook and one in person group.  Between them, I interact with literally thousands of women who are at some stage of going through this.  (If you want to know what groups they are send me an email and I will tell you which ones to join.  He reads my blog so I don’t want him to infiltrate my safe places.) All of the stories and experiences vary in specific details, but the resulting behaviors are all the same! It is amazing, and shocking at the same time. You need to know that you are not alone.  I wouldn’t wish this sisterhood on my worst enemy, but it is good to know you are not alone when going through something so horrific.  There are women out there who do understand, too many of them, in my opinion.

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My last word on this subject is, that if you are experiencing any of these things, you are in danger. I wish someone would have told me earlier about this, I could have saved myself a lot of damage, time, energy, heartache, and money.  But like I said, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Don’t discount what I am telling you either.  You may think that your husband is different, he would never do this to you.  Don’t believe it for one minute as long as you are experiencing any of the above.  Right now, he is not the man you married.  It’s time you stopped acting like he is, at least until the gaslighting stops.

If you are reading this then you are strong enough to protect yourself.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

addiction, My Story, Uncategorized

One Year Ago…

I have been a hot mess this week.  Lot’s of crying, anxiety, panic, and fear.  I feel as if I have been sent back to where I was over a year ago, to relive it all over again. I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped to think about it.  You may not remember traumatic events, but your body knows.  Your body remembers EVERYTHING that ever happened to you.  I am learning this from doing emotional healing through the “Emotion Code.” (BTW, I highly recommend it!) My body remembered it was the 1st Anniversary of my divorce long before my mind remembered it, and my body has been sending out distress signals.

“Danger! Danger!”

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This is so distressing to remember because it is something I never wanted.  I would have never imagined that I would ever file for a divorce.  Ever!  I loved my husband. I still do, the old him, anyway, the him he was before he cheated on me.

I hated it that he cheated on me and kept his addiction hidden for so long, it had been going on for over a year before I discovered it.  I hated it that he lied to me, over and over and over and over. I hated it that he pretended to be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t. I hated everything about what happened after I discovered his multiple online affairs. But I learned enough from when he did this the first time, yes it happened more than once, that he had an addiction.  So I was “prepared” somewhat, and it was always in my mindset, after I got over the inital hurt and shock, that we would work it out, and, eventually, we would be back together.  I love him.  I want him back.  I will always love him and want him back.  When I married him he was the choice of my heart and the love of my life!  He was everything to me! Not the “him” he is today, but the “him” he was before all of this happened. I want my family back.  I will never stop wanting my family back together.  That is who I am.  My family means everything to me! It always will.  If I could have my heart’s desire, it would to be with him again.  I will always wish that. He is NOT who his addiction has made him to be. I am not angry with him for having an addiction.  I am angry with him for not admitting it and getting help. I am angry he refused to fix himself! Had he done that, he would still be married to me.

This is the thing about these addicted men that I do not get!  Most wives are so willing to forgive!  Too willing sometimes. They want to work it out.  I have only personally met one woman who did not.  Guys!  Your wives are more forgiving than you could ever imagine! For crying out loud, give us a chance!  All you have to do is admit you have a problem and get help, and you could have everything you ever wanted.  Why in the world would you not choose to get into recovery and stay there?

Therein is the real tragedy of addiction! Sadly, my story is not unique.  It plays out in the same way in thousands of marriages and families all over the world.  Addicts simply do not see they have a problem! The denial is slaying the hearts of wives and destroying families right and left! My story is only one of many.  What makes me unique is that I am among the few who are willing, or able, to step out into the sunlight and expose our common experiences for all those women who cannot because of shame, guilt, or to protect themselves. their children, or their husbands.  My ex-husband lost my protection when he withdrew his protection from me.

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The two years we were separated were nothing short of a neverending nightmare I could not wake up from.  His infidelities pale in comparison to what he did to me during those next two years.  The several therapists I have seen all say, I was emotionally tortured. The same way a POW is tortured when captured by the enemy. So much so that I ended up with PTSD, or betrayal trauma.  Mine is a pretty severe case.  I suppose that is partly my fault, because I let him torture me far longer than I should have.  I wanted to give him every opportunity, every chance I could, to come back.  I wanted him to choose me.  I wanted him to fight for me, for our family.  I had EVERY faith in him that he would…eventually…If I just gave him enough time…I told myself.  Boy, was I ever wrong. This time, being wrong, nearly cost me my life.

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That is the funny thing about agency, no matter what you want, you cannot make another person want the same thing.  I could not make him choose me.  He had to decide that for himself.  And I had to decide how long I would allow him to abuse me over it. He had the power to make his own choices, but I learned that I could choose too.  I could choose how long I would allow him to continue to cheat, lie, and abuse me.  Over those two years, I begged him to get into recovery.  He would not. He said he would.  But it never materialized into anything other than words.  I used to be able to take him at his word, so it was hard for me to understand why this time was any different.  I wanted so much to believe him! I even set up appointments, I paid for his counseling,  I followed up with his Bishop, I tried talking to his counselors. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing worked.  His final analysis was that he did not have an addiction, and I was crazy for thinking he did.  He was even angry at me for trying to seek help for us, and he drug his feet and belittled me for my efforts. But, in spite of his resentment of me, I would put myself out there for him to come back to me again and again, and each time I would discover another affair.

All in all, six women, contacted me (there were others I didn’t know about at the time) during those two years to let me know he was cheating on me with them.  Why?  Because he was cheating on them too!  It seems cheaters don’t like to be cheated on, so they’ll go tell the wife to get back at them.  These contacts were humiliating and excruciating.  I learned, over time, I couldn’t trust ANYTHING he said to me.  It is horrific not to be able to trust the one man you relied on to protect you from all harm.  He became so unsafe for me because of his lying.  I could deal with the truth easier than the lies. A lie comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, you do not see it coming. When the truth is exposed and out in the open, you can see it and deal with it.  With truth you can fix any problem.  When there is no truth, it becomes impossible to fix anything.

My therapist told me at the time, that a man has two tongues, one in his mouth and one on his shoes. He advised me that I was to stop listening to the one in his mouth, and just pay attention to the one on his shoes.  In other words, I needed to just watch what he does.  I needed to see if his walk matched his talk.  It did not. The proof was in his actions not his words. It took paying attention to his actions, and not listening to him,  for me to really see what was in his heart. It was shocking for me to wake up to the reality that he did not really want me anymore. He liked his life of addiction more than he wanted me. That was something that had never crossed my mind before, and it was devasating to see the truth of it.

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This is where I found myself last April.  Between the man I love, and his lies.  There is no more unsettling or profound “rock and a hard place” scenario. I was already unbelievably fragile.  The October before, I was so messed up from his crazymaking that I could see no way out, other than to take my own life.  Luckily, I took myself to the hospital instead, where the doctor said I needed a long vacation, so I took a cruise.  That turned out to be the best advice I had ever gotten from a doctor.  It saved me and gave me some peace and perspective I so desperately needed. My husband never believed I was in such a dire situation.  He still doesn’t. He was mad at me for going on the cruise over his birthday. Nevermind that my life hung in the balance. He has no clue what his addiction has done to my mental, emotional, or physical health.  He doesn’t care either. Someday, probably judgment day, he will know, and he will care. That day is a day of clarity that I am looking forward to witnessing.

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The impact of the behaviors of my husband’s addiction left me in “fight, flight or freeze” mode 24/7.  I lived, trapped, in this space for those two years we were separated as I was being whipped around between lies and more lies, deceit and what someone referred to as the “mindf**kery” (sorry, there is no other way to describe it) that comes from constant gaslighting. My adrenal glands were shot.  I lived in a heightened state of danger that never eased up. Imagine being caged with a hungry lion that you know wants to eat you, it’s only a matter of time, you don’t know how or when, but you know you will be eaten alive eventually, that is the kind of fear I am talking about. “Fight for your life” kind of fear!

I never knew when another woman would come out of the woodwork. I never knew when he was seeing someone else or sleeping with them when he should have been with me. My heart raced. My mind was in hyper-drive. My breathing was shallow or heavy, my resting pulse was 107, I couldn’t eat or sleep, throwing up and diarrhea were constant companions.  In short, I was a wreck. I could not calm my body down! A person cannot survive in this condition for very long.  I am surprised I survived two years of it.  My reserves were, by now, past empty, and I knew I could not go on like this for much longer.  So I finally laid down a strong boundary.  I asked my husband to come up with a plan for how he was going to provide me with enough safety and connection so that I could move back home with him.  I knew if we were going to save our marriage and family we needed a plan. I wanted to move back in with him and it was taking way too long! He didn’t like any of my plans and refused to even entertain them, so the most logical thing to do was for him to come up with his own plan.  I was prepared to do whatever he decided, within reason. I gave him 3 weeks to come up with a plan.  If, after 3 weeks, he still did not have a plan, then I would file for a divorce. I was done being the mouse in his endless game of cat and mouse.

Three weeks passed.  There was no plan.  I knew I couldn’t keep giving him chances that he only squandered, I didn’t have the bandwidth, so I filed for the divorce.  I was heartbroken.  Inconsoleable. It is the most devastating feeling I will ever know – having my husband, with 38 years of life, love, and history together, not choose me.  I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind or rejection.  It is a betrayal of love that was worse than his cheating on me. Pure anguish of body, mind, and spirit.

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“I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind of rejection.”

Then, to my shock and amazement, he turned around and blamed it ALL on me!  He said, I am the one who wanted the divorce, I filed for it, it was my choice. He really thinks this. Talk about adding insult to injury?  How he could come to this conclusion is a mystery to me, and always will be.  All I can do is to chalk it up to “addict brain.”  Addicts have no ability to employ logic or reason, that part of their brain is swiss cheese.  You know what I mean if you have ever talked to an addict for more than 5 minutes.  Their grasp of reality is just nonexistent. It’s pure nonsense!

Not wanting to really give up on him, I continued to give him even more chances that he refused to take. There was a part of me that kept believing that he would come around. I would go through with the divorce, but I was also willing to work on our relationship while we went through the 90-day waiting period, but I needed to see real improvement! It was my intention to stop the divorce if he showed any real progress, and I told him this.  I learned later that he had already just moved on.  He was dating other women and going to singles activities before the divorce was even final. Not knowing what he was really doing, I even felt that if he got into recovery that I would, and could, marry him again! However, he never had any intention of choosing me or our family.  I was to find out how totally he was willing to toss us all aside when he remarried 6 months later.  It seems I made the right decision, as excruciating as it was at the time.  His addiction killed any love or connection he may have had for me and our children. He never really tried. It was easier for him to go find someone else than to do the work to save his life-long marriage.  Porn really does kill love. That is not some cutsie slogan.  It’s real.

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As for me, I have been in an emotional and relational “time out” for the last 2 1/2 years. I need to be healthy enough, and recovered enough, to even consider being in a stable relationship with anyone. When all of this began I believed that I would never marry again.  I still do not know if I will.  But now I am at a place in my healing where I am willing to entertain the idea.  I started going to single adult activities in my church, at least.  I even signed up for an online dating site.  I am slightly overwhelmed by the reaction I got.  Within the first 2 hours I had over 250 views on my profile and 65 messages in my inbox.  It seems that some men, think I am a catch!  It was a much-needed boost to my self-esteem.  I have yet to go on any dates, not that I haven’t been asked. ( One guy even wanted to take me to Italy to meet his Mom!)  I figure I can afford to be very, very picky.  When the right man comes along, I will know it.

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A sign that I was healing is that I have gotten my intuition back, I missed being able to trust my instincts.  It serves me well.  I am still working my recovery everyday; I see a therapist weekly, have EMDR sessions, I go to 12-steps, I attend classes, and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes.  I am moving towards becoming the person I was always meant to be.  I study my scripture daily and pray earnestly, relying solely on Him who is mighty to save.  Little by little, I am healing. (One day I will write a book about my experiences.) Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward, and one step backward, but the direction is what matters, not the speed.  I am still working hard at self-care.  I need to be gentle with myself.  I have been in an emotional war for my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am battle weary. I still get bombed by my ex from time to time, but he no longer has the power over me he used to enjoy. I mostly feel sorry for him that he is still stuck in his unhealthy behaviors, and an unhealthy relationship.

Ultimately, what I am most proud of myself for, during this experience, is that I never lost my core values or beliefs.  I stayed true to myself.  I stayed true to the Lord.  I stayed true to the church.  I kept my covenants. And, to me, those are the greatest accomplishments of all! Too many women do not make it out of the hell-hole of addiction with their integrity intact. I am one of the lucky ones, and I understand this.  I used to want to just wash away all of the pain in drugs or drinking, but I knew if I went there it would never stop, and ultimately, it would not slove anything. But I get it. I get why addiction destroys both the husband and the wife.  It is devastating for families, and children are the ulitmate victims.

Once I realized what was happening to my body this week, I was able to employ my tools of recovery and get my emotions, and my body back on track. “Earth body – Body body – Mind body” as my yoga instructor likes to say – all in alignment. I will be forever grateful that I chose recovery for myself, and for those people who helped me, and continue to help me, you know who you are! It has made all the difference in my healing. The next step on my journey is to recover my physical health.  I am looking forward to being a much smaller, healthier version of myself this time next year!  Best of all, I have a swelling of optimism growing in my heart.  I am starting to look forward to the next day, and what the future might hold. That is a new thing for me. Good things are starting to happen! I am reclaiming myself.  I am reclaiming my life.  Addiction may have destroyed my husband and our marriage, but it did not destroy me. Here is to a better year! It is more than about time, it’s past due.

“Stay Sweet, Be Strong”

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He Said…She Said; The Denial Effect

The one thing keeping an addict from getting into recovery is DENIAL. Denial starts with the declaration, “I don’t have a problem!”  This is usually followed by, “You’re the problem!” Or some variation. And then the trauma begins. The more emphatic the denial by the addict, the deeper the trauma to the wife. I can only describe it as “crazymaking,” because that is what it is. The addict will go to great lengths to deny he is an addict and it will literally drive you to distraction if you don’t recognize it and learn how to deal with it. He will twist and tie every piece of “proof” you have of his addiction into knots, doing the most astounding mental and emotional gymnastics you have EVER been privileged to witness, until you will almost believe it yourself. Or you might just give in because the barrage of verbal warfare is relentless. Trying to argue or reason with an addict is futile. It’s a waste of time, energy and breathe. Which is one reason I kept a journal and kept records of all the proof I had of his encounters with other women. I have electronic and hard copies. So whenever I would start to fall prey to his “crazymaking” I could go back and look at the evidence and read my journal and remember what really happened. I’m not the crazy one. He is.

46466-quotes-about-people-in-denialIt took me a long time to come to this realization because my husband was one of the most reasonable and logical people I knew. It’s quite a role reversal when I am the more reasonable and logical person in the relationship. So it was extremely difficult to wrap my brain around this new warped person standing in front of me. Any encounters with him sent me running for cover in self-defense. I literally felt like I was under gun and mortar fire all.the.time.  I could hardly tolerate the constant lies and accusations. He almost had ME convinced that his addiction was MY FAULT and that he was the victim.

I am not the only one to experience this. Soon after I went “no contact” with him, he started doing the same thing with my kids. It’s one thing for him to drag me through the warped and sicko maze of the bizarre “fun house” of his mind, but it is quite another thing to watch him do it to my kids! They are adults so I couldn’t do anything about it except sit by and watch him do the same thing to them that he had done to me. This was and is just one more layer to the trauma he has put our family through.

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If you have ever been around an addict then you know exactly what I am talking about. If not, let me take you through a few of the denial tactics, along with some personal examples to show you what each tactic of denial looks like. If you are in a relationship with an addict then you will recognize most, if not all of them. Understanding the role of denial in sex addiction with help you know where you are in your relationship with the addict and what needs to happen next.

 

  • Lying – Addicts lie about everything, even stuff they don’t need to lie about.  They cannot seem to tell the truth…at all. They will say anything, do anything to protect their secret world from being discovered.  The problem is that the lying is pretty obvious because the damage done to the brain by the addiction makes it nearly impossible for them to keep track of all the lies. If your husband spends a great amount of time lying and covering his tracks he is in denial. Honesty is a hallmark of a healthy relationship.  If your husband is lying to you then something is wrong.
    • She said: My ex-husband was frequently “let go” or “changed” jobs unexpectedly.  When I would hear him interviewing on the phone, I would catch him telling potential employers numerous lies, small lies, but lies nevertheless. So I would ask him, “why did you lie about…?”
    • He said: “Well, everyone lies when they are being interviewed, it’s how the game is played.”
    • Other examples: Often they cannot account for where they have been.  Coming home late from work. Suddenly getting lots of calls  from “wrong numbers” and not being able to explain them away. Clicking out of apps or computer pages when you walk in the room and then lying about it.
  • Playing the Victim –  This is the one denial tactic that hurt me more than all the others, except for the gaslighting.  I had a terrible time understand how he could act like he was the one who was the victim?  I didn’t really want the victim role, I have never been fond of using it, but it was insulting that he acted like I was the one who hurt him!
    • He said: “I just don’t understand why you are not more supportive of me? You left me, I didn’t leave you! So you are the one who just doesn’t love me anymore.  If you loved me you would have stayed with me and worked with me.”
    • She said: Wow!  This was a tough pill to swallow when he would blast me with this one, which he did nearly every time we talked.  The worst part of this one is that I think he really believes himself when he says it! I moved out to get myself to a safe place because he refused to come clean from the very beginning and he continued to lie and cover up his affairs.  If at any point he would have stopped the affairs, gotten into recovery and provide me with safety, I would have moved back in with him and “worked with him,” but he was unable or unwilling to do these bare minimum steps.  So I couldn’t come back.  It wasn’t ever safe enough to do so, no matter how much I wanted to do it. The truth is that when he started having affairs with other women, he left me first.  This seems lost on him.
    • Other examples: “I just can’t help it.” “You won’t work with me.” “You just don’t love me anymore.” “I will never be able to repent from this because you will never forgive me.” If you were more supportive of me then I could overcome this.”
  • Entitlement – This is used by the addict when he feels he has the right to behave a certain way. He will somehow feel he is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Entitlement is often behind the addicts belief that he is SPECIAL, that he doesn’t have an addiction.  Those addicts who feel they are entitled believe they are the exception and not the rule.
    • He said: “After all I have done for you over the years you owe it to me to give me the benefit of the doubt.”
    • She said: He is not entitled to cash checks in the trust account after infidelity.  Trust is something that is earned, he is not entitled to it, and especially not after having online affairs, unchecked, for a year.
    • Other examples: “I am different, I am not a full-blown addict like the other guys in my group.” “I work hard to support my wife and kids, and I’m productive at my job. I think that I deserve a little reward. I mean it can’t be all work and no play, right? So if I go online for a little while here and there to look at porn, nobody should complain, because I deserve this little escape.”
  • Blame – Essentially, addicts see themselves at being at the mercy of the words or actions of other people. They are assigning their responsibility for a fault or a wrong doing to others, usually their wife and family members.  Often an addict will not accept responsibility for acting out even when he is caught. With the addict, it is usually someone else’s fault.  Sometimes the addict will take partial responsibility, but them blame his wife for the rest.  This is recognized when the addict says, “Yes, this is my fault, BUT…”  There should be no “BUT” when an addict takes real responsibility! The addicts blaming can be devastating to the betrayed wife!  It is appalling to have your husband blame you for their wrong choices.  This often leaves the wife wondering if there might be some truth to his twisted thinking.
    • He said: “If you would have stayed with me then I wouldn’t keep cheating on you.  You left me all alone so of course I kept cheating.  If you had been with me I wouldn’t have any reason to be with other women.”
    • She said: “So you do not have enough self-control to keep your core principles without me around to make sure you don’t cheat?” This is blaming at it’s finest!  With this sort of logic it is totally my fault he was unfaithful!  Not!  This is a core issue with addicts, they seem to lack agency or accountability.  This is another way you can tell if your husband is serious about recovery, HE WILL BE ACCOUNTABLE for his own actions!
    • Other examples: “My wife is such a nag.” “She constantly criticizes everything I do.” “She’s boring in bed. She never wants to try anything new, and she doesn’t care if I’m enjoying things or not.” The  other women I meet on Ashley Madison are totally different. They like me the way I am, and they’re willing to let me do what I want.”

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These next three are very similar and are often used by the addict together in the same sentence.

  • Justification –  is when an addict tries to show their actions are right or reasonable. Often you can recognize a justification by the use of the word JUST.  “I was just doing…”, “It was just a little….”, “You just don’t understand…”.
    • He said: “I only acted out sexually with other women a few times online.  After that we were just talking.  Don’t you understand?  I was just talking to them.”
    • She said: Even if he had not ever acted out online sexually and had only been talking to other women in chatroom, this is still cheating in most women’s eyes. Anytime your husband turns he attention to another women that is time he should have been investing in you!  That is cheating you out of your relationship with him! As far as the sexual piece goes, the number of times doesn’t matter to a wife.  One time is too many! There is no JUST when we are talking about cheating!
    • Other examples:“Everyone is doing it.” “We were separated so I just didn’t think it mattered.” “All you do is criticize me.” “I was just flirting, it’s no big deal.”
  • Minimization – This is trying to reduce the seriousness of the addicts behaviors to the smallest possible amount or degree.  To the wife, minimizing her feelings of betrayal signal that her husband is unsafe because he really doesn’t “get it” or understand what he has really done to her. Minimizing is a sure sign that the wife is not safe to trust her husband.
    • She said: Often I would have the feeling that my Ex was still cheating on me, even when he said he wasn’t.  I would confront him with the feeling and he would tell me he wasn’t (lying).  Later on, I would find out he was “chatting” with some woman online. When I confronted him with the evidence…
    • He said: “Yes, I was chatting with so and so online, but it wasn’t anything.  We were just talking. I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t understand. But it was nothing.” If it was really nothing, he wouldn’t have hidden it.
    • Other examples: “I’m not hurting anyone, and I’m not putting myself in any danger. I mean everyone knows that it’s just a one-time thing and we’re not going to fall in love. And I can tell right away when someone is into drugs or weird stuff, just from what they write or text me, so I don’t get into dicey situations. This just isn’t a big deal.” “This website isn’t that bad, we mostly just hang out in chatrooms and talk.  It’s the way I relax at the end of a stressful day.  It isn’t any different from you being on Facebook.”
  • Rationalization – Is making excuses to justify an unwanted behavior.  Often a rationalization will appear to be logical and well thought out, but the underlying purpose of it is to avoid the true explanation. They are false and often inconsistent excuses for specific behaviors.
    • She said: “Why did you just go and make this worse by acting out with women in person?”
    • He said: “After I was excommunicated I figured it didn’t matter anymore so if I was being accused of cheating I decided I might as well go off and have sex with a real person. I mean, really, how could that be any worse?”
    • Other examples: “I’m not having affairs like a lot of other people I know. All I’m doing is looking at porn, playing a few virtual reality sex games and occasionally getting off on a webcam. I don’t even know anybody’s real name. So this isn’t cheating. And if my partner thinks it is, that’s his problem, not mine.”
  • Turning the Tables – Also know as manipulation, is a tactic used by the addict to change the situation or focus so that he has changed positions with his spouse.  This often happens when a wife confronts the addict about a specific behavior.  The addict will find a way to turn the tables to make it about his wife’s perceived problem so the focus is taken off of his problem.
    • She said: “I really wish you wouldn’t ignore me, if we are going to repair our relationship then we need to work on improving our connection.”
    • He said: “Well, if you hadn’t moved out and left me then we would be living in the same house and we could connect everyday! If we are not connecting then it’s probably because you do not live in the same house as me.”
    • Other examples: How to spot manipulation.
  • Gaslighting – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.  It is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill anxiety and confusion in their victim’s.
    • She said: “I just really feel like you are still cheating on me.” I would say this after going through a period of time where he would distance himself from me, not call or text and then completely ignore me.  This happened over and over.  So I would ask him about what is going on with.
    • He said: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me, I have given you no reason not to trust me and here you are again, accusing me of things I did not do! How can we ever get back together if you are constantly questioning everything I do?  I go to counseling with you.  I attended the recovery program with you, like you wanted me to, what more do you want from me?  Nothing I do is ever enough for you! You will never forgive me!
    • Other examples: Read more about gaslighting here, here, and here.

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All the above tactics were used on me quite extensively.  This is why I had to go NO CONTACT with my Ex and it will probably stay that way until he comes out of denial on his own. An addict in denial is dangerous to your mental and emotional health.  That isn’t an exaggeration either. I ended up being suicidal because my husband was in absolute denial. He even went so far as to claim the mental health professionals working with him said he was not suffering from an addiction, but something else. The problem is that he would never define what that “something else” was. Later, when I talked to his counselors and church leaders about what I was experiencing on the other end of his “problem” they each agreed that his was deep in addiction, and that he had been less than honest with them about the extent of his problems. This is a huge issue with denial because if they cannot be honest with themselves about what they have done then they cannot be honest with their counselors either. In this state there is no moving forward. The addict is stuck. And so is his family. A problem cannot be addressed or fixed if the person with the problem can’t even see that they have a problem! This leaves the family no other choice than to stand by and helplessly watch as their loved one spirals out of control. There is NOTHING anyone can do until the addict hits the bottom. Here is an article you may find useful on the stages of denial.

The longer the addict stays in denial the more grim the chances are of repairing your relationship. My husband’s addiction went on unchecked and untreated, in any significant way, for 3 solid years. That is plenty long for him to have developed a full-blown addiction.

So how do you know if your man is in denial about his sex addiction? As you can see from some of the above examples, usually,  it’s pretty easy to tell. This list is a pretty good place to start. Almost everyone can tell except the addict. It is also really easy to tell if they are in recovery or not by the frequency in which they still engage in denial behaviors.  If your husband is still lying, minimizing, justifying, blaming, acting the victim or entitled, if he rationalizing, turning the tables on you or gaslighting you then you can be pretty certain that he is still involved in acting out on his addictive behaviors!  Red flags should go up immediately. At this point, an honest and open Q&A should happen between you about your concerns.  If he is still in recovery then he will welcome your questions and do his best to answer honestly and work to relieve any of your fears or concerns.  Any stonewalling is a red flag that something is going on.

As much as I hate the denial tactics that my husband put me through, they were the barometer that I was able to use to determine if he was serious about fighting for me or not.  Ultimately, it was the deciding factor in determining to divorce him.  He just would not come out of denial. It seems he still won’t.

That’s the bad news. There is some good news. You do have some choices you can make to empower yourself against the “denial effect.” This amounts to the things you must do to work on your own recovery from the trauma caused by the addict.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the “denial effect?” Plenty. This is will be the subject of my next blog post…

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Note:  Denial is not just engaged in by addicts. In fact, family members are often as deeply in denial as the addict. And because of this they tend to either enable or ignore the addiction and its consequences. This is another blog post that will be forthcoming.

Regardless of whether denial is engaged in by the addict or his/her loved ones, it exacerbates the addict’s desire to escape from life. This is because denial is a complex series of lies, secrets and deceptions that expands and takes on a life of its own as the addiction escalates. And the larger and more complicated this web of deceit becomes, the harder it is to maintain. Over time, the stress of sustaining this façade of normalcy becomes overwhelming. And of course the anxiety and fear this produces nearly always triggers a further desire to “numb out” via the addiction. In this way, the addict’s and/or the family’s system of denial directly feeds the cycle of addiction. This is why it is imperative that the whole family go to counseling, 12-steps and addiction recovery for spouses and families. See my page on Programs for suggestions on where to start.

Remember…

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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